JASPER, Texas — Texas' Stephen Johnston expanded his lead to more than 8 pounds today on the strength of a 19-pound, 6-ounce stringer, but he had to adjust as thick clouds rolled in for the second day of the Bassmaster Central Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
"It's grouping those fish when the sun's shining, and when it's cloudy they're getting out of that grass and swimming around," Johnston said. "They're just not bunched up at all, and it's really got those fish to where you can hardly get a bite."
Bassmaster Elite Series pros Bradley Hallman and Todd Faircloth held first-day positions of second and third, respectively.
Despite the cloud cover, Johnston stuck with a deeper pattern for some time before giving up.
"I made myself stay deep thinking the clouds didn't hurt me that bad, but it did," Johnston said. "I stayed deep until about 11:30 (a.m.), and then started junk fishing after that.
"I swung for the fence today, and caught everything I could."
He could have upgraded even more, but he missed two quality bites and came in an hour early because he had fish that were ailing.
"I had one that was a question and another one that turned up, and that's a pound (in penalties)," Johnston said. "A pound could be important tomorrow."
His decision to get the fish to the B.A.S.S. staff and cared for properly resulted in the five fish surviving the ordeal.
Johnston said he was hoping for the best tomorrow even though the forecast was for more clouds.
"I'm just going to go out there and do what I'm doing and see what happens," Johnston said.
The low-light also impacted Hallman, who brought in 12-11.
"I caught two 4-pounders, and by noon I had to realize it wasn't going to happen," Hallman said. "I had to scramble and catch some keepers. All I had was two bass by 4 o'clock, and at 4:30 I found a spot and caught two more."
He said he wasn't sure what would happen tomorrow, although he believed the pattern that produced his first-day 20-5 limit was probably not going to happen in light of the forecast.
"If it's sunny, I'll be able to catch them, I think," Hallman said. "If it's cloudy, I won't be able to catch them."
A darkhorse in the competition could be Texas' Todd Castledine, who said he found a magical pattern after discarding his considerable local knowledge. That decision pushed him from 23rd all the way to fourth.
"Basically, I live on this lake and I fish it all the time, and I did something I never did before," Castledine said. "I just decided I wasn't going to get caught up in making my fish bite.
"I'm going to let the fish tell me what to do."
He said his 17-pound, 11-ounce limit could have been even greater had all his bites remained hooked up.
"I had 10 over 5 (pound) that I missed," Castledine said.
While he was 10 pounds behind leader Johnston, Castledine said he was confident the bite would hold because of the predicted cloud coverage for Saturday's competition.
"I went behind people all day long, and I got to where I could almost call my fish," he said.
On the co-angler side, Colorado's Michael Hubbard jumped from 43rd to take the lead after bringing in two fish that tipped the scales to 12-5. His stringer included a 9-pound, 9-ounce lunker that marked the heaviest bass of the tournament thus far.
Only the top 30 pros and co-anglers will fish tomorrow. Blast-off begins at 6:45 a.m. at Umphries Family Pavilion, and the weigh-in starts at 3 p.m.